Donald Trump has said he and Rex Tillerson should “compare IQ tests” if the Secretary of State called him a “moron”.
Speaking to Forbes magazine, the US President said: “I think it’s fake news. But if he did that, I guess we’ll have to compare IQ tests. And I can tell you who is going to win.”
The strained relationship between the President and America’s top diplomat became public last week when NBC reported Vice President Mike Pence had to persuade Mr Tillerson not to quit during the summer and that Mr Tillerson had called the President a “moron”.
The former oil executive told reporters he had never considered resigning, but refused to address the reported insult.
He said he wouldn’t dignify “petty nonsense” and insisted he remained committed to the administration’s foreign policy goals.
Mr Tillerson’s spokeswoman later said he never used such language.
But the President’s frequent interventions into Mr Tillerson’s area have left many wondering how long his commitment will last.
Mr Trump recently told his top diplomat he was wasting his time trying to reach a negotiated settlement with North Korea, something Mr Trump’s incendiary tweets have rendered unlikely anyway.
He has also given to his son-in-law Jared Kushner the task of leading the administration’s efforts towards a Middle East peace deal, traditionally one of any Secretary of State’s key areas of influence.
But far from weakening Mr Tillerson, Mr Trump told Forbes he was being supportive.
“I’m not undermining… I think I’m actually strengthening authority,” he said.
The pair are scheduled to have lunch on Tuesday at the White House with Defence Secretary James Mattis.